1827
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Gamester.

Forget Me Not; a Christmas and New Year's Present for MDCCCXXVII.

Mrs. Cornwell Baron Wilson


Eleven irregular Spenserians (ababcC) by "Mrs. Cornwell Baron Wilson" (Margaret Harries) This rather lurid character of a gambler who has ruined his family recasts the Despair episode from the first book of the Faerie Queen in a domesitic setting. This poet contributed frequently to the monthlies and annuals, adding a distinctly feminine voice to the Spenserian tradition. "The Gamester" is a verse character combining Spenserian elements from the allegorical ode, as in Collins's "To Fear," with those of the domestic tale, as in Mickle's The Concubine. In regular Spenserians, compare "The Gambler's Wife" in Saturday Evening Post [Philadelphia] 5 (24 October 1826).

New Monthly Magazine: "Mr. Ackermann has again presented us with a charming repetition of his last year's Forget me Not, in most respects the counterpart of that of the preceding year, except that the plates, thirteen in number, though equally well designed and engraved, do not offer quite that variety of style which they had before. They are, however, splendid specimens of art, and do great credit to the publisher's liberality. These charming and neat works so well adapated for presents to friends as each fleeting year passes away, to remind us of its lapse, and of the performance of a little act of social kindness, deserve public support, and will, we have no doubt, meet it" NS 18 (November 1826) 452.

Gentleman's Magazine: "Mrs. Wilson's poetical talents, if not of the highest order, are yet of a class which perhaps may be said to be of more general utility. She is most truly a poet of nature, and will illustrate the adage 'Poeta nascetur, non fit.' She is, moreover, highly fitted to sustain the part of (what it is particularly her ambition to aim at) a domestic poet. Her powers are especially, though not exclusively, adapted to do justice to those subjects which are conversant with the sacred precincts of our homes and hearths" 98 (May 1828) 441.



See where the Victim stands! — not crown'd with flowers,
But compass'd round by fiends: — his haggard cheek,
His beamless eye — what tell they? — Of lost hours,
With mute, but dreadful eloquence they speak!
Of fame and fortune blighted, hopes betray'd,
And all the fearful wreck one cherish'd vice had made.

Hark to yon hollow laugh of desp'rate mirth,
That while it fires the brain, and lights the eye,
Sounds the last knell of peace; owing its birth
To the fierce pangs of mental agony.
'Tis the convulsive joy of wild Despair,
Wrung from the tortured heart — a joy that Demons share!

Oh, love of play! so call'd in Fashion's phrase,
Blighter of social hearths and peaceful hours;
Cank'rer of manhood's fair and opening days,
That but for thee had else been strewn with flowers;
Thou direst passion of the human heart,
None but a master's hand can paint thee as thou art!

Oh! vice of all most hurtful to the soul,
Climax of ev'ry other vice — the mind
That once acknowledges thy fell control
Spreads desolation round it; like the wind
That sweeps the desert in its poison'd wrath,
Shedding where'er it breathes destruction in its path!

Oh, vice of all most deadly! on thy shrine
Nature's soft links, Love's sweet and holy ties,
Fall early victims — all the bonds that twine
Around man's heart, light up a sacrifice
More cruel than on Bramah's blood-stain'd pyre,
Where Hindoo mothers joy to see their babes expire!

Fame — honour — fortune — all are swept away,
All swell the gen'ral wreck: — why stands he HERE
A ruin'd, hopeless Wretch? — As breaks the day,
He quits the scene of plunder; — in his ear
Ring the still rattling dice; — his throbbing brain
Is crowded now with thoughts, that ne'er shall rest again.

Rushing with horror through the silent streets,
And shrinking from himself, he seeks his HOME!
(Once 'twas a happy one): — his pale Wife greets
His wish'd return with smiles; — how can Man roam
From Woman's calm endearments to partake
Those scenes that of his soul a leafless desert make?

Ah! SHE has listen'd with a beating heart
To ev'ry passing footstep; — SHE has told
Each ling'ring hour's dull chime with frequent start,
And tears that none might chide, and none behold;
And she has kiss'd her infant in its sleep,
Praying that Heaven from him such fatal vice may keep!

But now she meets the LOST-ONE with a smile
That would seem cheerful — save that her pale brow
And faded cheek tell other tales the while
Of sufferings which her lips will ne'er avow:
Fondly she clasps the wanderer to her breast—
Alas! not ev'n THERE can his wreck'd heart find rest!

She leads him to the couch where calmly sleeps
His beggar'd child: — then e'en the GAMESTER'S soul
Owns all a FATHER'S feelings! — See, he weeps—
(But they are tears that madden as they roll)—
Oh! drops, by years of anquish cheaply bought,
Could ye but wash away the ruin he has wrought!

It may not be! — already on his brow,
Cain-like, is stampt the burning mark of shame;
And the chill hand of Scorn is pointing now
Its withering finger at his blighted name:—
It may not be! — ere sinks another sun,
Self-murder crowns his guilt — DESPAIR'S last work is done.

[pp. 52-54]